Tag Archives: market

Tlacolula Meanderings: Play, Parking Tickets and No Where In Particular

One of my favorite past-times is the Sunday Tlacolula market.  I never tire of it. There is always something new, different, another point-of-view. This week there were strange flowers that looked like lollipops, plus fuzzy rambutans for eating.

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Last Sunday, I parked on the street not attending to the “no parking” sign, which I didn’t think included the spot where I had stationed La Tuga.  Afterall, it was exactly where I parked the week before! Then, Carol and I set out to cover the market from one end to the other.  It was early and for the first block, we trailed a duo carrying guacalotes intended for sale.

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Then, there were the petate basket weavers from San Juan Guelavia who make traditional mats that gringos use for floor coverings who vend in the church courtyard along with the sellers of sal de gusano.

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The Tlacolula market is a food, flower and people fest. There’s no telling what you will find. Including a flower vendor with a floral skirt.

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After returning to find a parking ticket the size of a legal sheet of paper, I hailed a huge pick-up truck with flashing lights, two official policemen in the front seat, to ask where to go to pay it and how much it would cost, only to be greeted by the driver with, Do you speak English?” in perfect English.  I would follow this civil servant anywhere.

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And I did, winding around the streets of Tlacolula to get to the first hidden-away office, where several officials inspected me, ushered me into the inner sanctum, where the chief, a woman, stamped the ticket and told me to go to the regional finance office to pay. They are closed on Sunday, so I had to return during the week.

I did. The line was short. The ticket cost 255 pesos, about $21 USD, and I learned my lesson. Park in an official parking garage!

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On the day I paid the ticket, these guys were still cruising the street. Guess what? They waived. Me, too.

Christmas Collage: Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Martha, Marianne, and Judy arrive from the city for dinner on December 23 and then we gather at the house of the eighth posada.  Earlier, I go to the local morning market and find a fish vendor from the coast.  We eat organic and fresh talapia, squash, potatoes, carrots, onions seasoned with kumquats, candied ginger, carrots, prunes, dates, and raisins all cooked together in the tagine.  Later, I use the head and bones for stock.

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The posadas continue through December 24, when baby Jesus appears on Christmas Eve at La Ultima Posada, the last posada, which is the grandest and most magnificent of all.

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On the street we meet a young woman and her mother who are originally from Teotitlan del Valle, and now live in Chicago.  She tells us she and her family put their name on the list to host La Ultima Posada ten years ago.  They will welcome baby Jesus in 2014.  The cost to host is about $50,000 USD, which includes a magnificent array of food for three days — enough to serve hundreds, two bands, drinks and refreshments, candles, lanterns, decorations.  She explains to us that it is an honor and a commitment to community and God to be able to do this. They meet with the church committee twice during the year to review details that will ensure a traditional celebration.  Service and community cohesiveness is essential for Zapotec life.  They have lived in this valley for 8,000 years.

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On December 24, I make a last minute run to the village market once more to discover it packed with shoppers and sellers at eight-thirty in the morning.  This is likely the biggest market of the year! Every one presses up to buy fresh moss and flowers from the Sierra Norte to make the creche that will bring baby Jesus to their home, too.

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There is fresh pineapple, bananas, papaya, mandarin oranges, apples, and spiced guayaba (guava). Lilies, roses, and flowering cactus lay on tables ready for plucking. Live chickens and turkeys, feet secure to keep them from flying away, lay subdued, waiting.

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Children hide under their mother’s aprons or eat fresh morning bread or sip a horchata. Who can resist the blue corn tortillas?  Not me.

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Piñatas are an integral part of the baby Jesus birthday celebration.  The market is filled with them on December 24.  Children adore the rain of candy.  Me, I adore the perfectly ripe avocados, organic lettuces and eggs.

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I bump into Janet and Jan, expats from France and Holland who winter here. They eat breakfast at the stand set up in the middle of the market, quesdadillas fresh off the griddle.

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Later, I join my family for the traditional dinner at eight.  Elsa brings homemade bacalhau, there is organic salad, roasted pork leg infused with bacon, garlic and prunes, pinto beans, with plenty of beer, mezcal and wine.  Dessert?  Why tiramisu cake from Quemen bakery, of course!

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Omar entertains Christian.  Lupita entertains Christian.  The children kick the soccer ball and jump on the piles of wool waiting for the loom.  We sip spiced ponche (hot fruit punch) made with guayaba fruit sweetened with sugar cane.  Some will go to the church for midnight mass.  Others will go on to aanother supper at midnight.

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Christmas day presents another dinner feast on Roberta’s terrace, this time a potluck with organic lettuces, Annie’s garden arugula, enchiladas with green salsa, roasted chicken, red wine, fruit salad and Susanna Trilling‘s Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding that Jan prepares.  The patio is filled with flowering cactus and the sunset can’t be better.

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All is well with our world.  I hope your holiday season is spectacular, too.  Feliz Navidad! Gracias a todos.

XmasCollage-37              Our next photography workshop is this summer 2014 for Dance of the Feather.  Find out more!

 

Sunday Tlacolula Market: Getting There, Being There

Every Sunday, with the exception of Easter, all the Teotitlan del Valle buses and collectivos go back and forth from the village to the tianguis at Tlacolula de Matamoros.  If you want to get from Oaxaca City to Teotitlan on a Sunday, that’s a different story (see below).

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The regional street market draws thousands of sellers and shoppers from throughout the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.   It is a confusion of blue and green tarps that cover probably ten square blocks of the town center, a protection from sun and rain.  It is also a cacophony of stuff: farm tools, meats, vegetables, household staples, garden plants and tourist treasures.

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I’ve been to this market enough times to recognize the regulars. Among my favorites are the sellers of brightly colored plastic woven baskets, embroidered aprons, and dried hibiscus flowers that I use to make agua de jamaica (ha-my-kah).

Vendors haul their goods wrapped in the plastic tarps they will use to cover their stalls.  Most will use the public vehicles provided by their villages, all pointed to Tlacolula on Sunday.

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It is wonderful to catch the bus at the corner of my street and join the pack. At 11 a.m. it’s hard to find a seat unless you get on at the village market origination point.  Today, my traveling companion is my eight-year-old niece Ixcel Guadalupe, who we call Lupita.  She is wearing her best Sunday-go-to-church-dress, adorned with the green felt flower we made together the day before.

Today, my shopping list is a pretty mundane: a bell for the front gate, a rope to hang it, a tightly woven bamboo basket with tray lid to adapt as a packing container for the gifts of mezcal bottles.  I’m always open to whatever else may present itself.

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I have in mind to get Lupe a smaller version of my shopping basket and perhaps a new apron.  First, we come across a costumed Pancho Villa selling art posters of the revolutionary army.  We look and move on.

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What catches my eye is gorgeous black clay pottery that I recognize from the  village of San Bartolo de Coyotepec. But, these pots are different, more authentically rustic, with lots of interesting variegation in the clay.  My dad was a potter and I know pottery!  I ask the vendor about them.  As I suspected, he hand-makes these in the old waterproof style originally used for holding mezcal. Hand-polished. Beautiful.  I bought a large one for 400 pesos (that’s about $32 USD).  He invited me to come visit him.  I extend the invitation to you:

Leopoldo Barranco, Calle Galiana #3, San Bartolo de Coyotepec.  No phone. Leopoldo is home all day during the week, he says.  A lovely man, definitely worth supporting this ancient craft.  His pots are much more interesting, in my opinion, than the commercially produced pieces one sees all over town.

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These tools (above) are all hand-forged.  The picks are incredibly sharp.  I bought two of the golden bells, and two stakes with rings that I am using to secure my roof-top laundry line.

DanceFeather_Aeromex-10After lunch at Comedor Mary (opposite church side-street on permanent market side) and wandering around, Lupita and I stop for ice cream at Neveria Rosita.  She has tuna (hot pink fruit of the nopal cactus) with lime sorbet.  I order chocolate and tuna.  (Both these places are clean and the food is excellent.)

By this time, I’m hauling the clay pot, the basket, the metal stakes, and bells.  She is carrying two aprons in her little basket.  I decide it’s easier and faster to take the Teotitlan collectivo back to the village.  The collectivo station is behind the Tlacolula Zocalo. Turn right, then left. Or ask anyone!

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When we get home at 4 p.m., we are greeted by a herd of grazing toros in the field next door.  Now, it’s time to pack those bottles of mezcal!

Getting to Tlacolula from Teotitlan del Valle by bus:  All the village buses go to Tlacolula on Sundays.  They run about every 30 minutes starting early in the morning. Catch it either at the mercado or anywhere along Av. Benito Juarez. Cost is 7 pesos (under 10 cents) each way. Last bus leaving Tlacolula for Teotitlan is at 5 p.m.

The collectivos leave from the parking lot on Benito Juarez.  They go when they are filled with five people — two in front (plus driver) and three in the back.  Take the back seat if you get the chance.  Much more comfortable.  Cost is 5 pesos one way per person.

Getting to Teotitlan from Oaxaca on a Sunday:  You can take a private taxi that will bring you right into town to your particular destination for 250 pesos. For 10 pesos, catch a bus at the baseball stadium headed toward Tlacolula or Mitla.  Ask to get off at the Teotitlan crucero (crossroads).  Take a collectivo, or bus or moto-taxi from the crossroads into town.  Don’t pay more than 10 pesos for the moto!  The bus will cost 7 pesos and the collectivo 5 pesos.

Eat Like a Mexican: Tasting Mexico City Street Food with Eat Mexico Culinary Tour

Forbes Magazine says Mexico City is the hottest place for food.  They are not talking temperature.  Mexico City has it all — from gourmet cheeses and meats found in pricey restaurants to humble street food like tacos and tlacoyos. Today, I focus on eating on the street where people consume complete meals or snacks, sitting on stools or standing at the curb. This is Mexico’s version of fast food and is something I have shied away from.  But my secret yearning to sample was finally realized because I want to eat like a Mexican, too!  Thanks goes to Lesley Tellez who started an off-the-beaten-path, non-touristy culinary walking tour called Eat Mexico (see below for contact information).   

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This is real food, homemade by women and men who work at portable cook stoves at street corners or at little stationery stands who continue home-style family traditions.  We discover, however, that humble is a misnomer and what we taste rivals any high-end restaurant for quality if not for presentation. Lesley has done her research well.  All the food is delicious, and the preparation is safe and clean.

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Our guide Natalia and guide-in-training Arturo, meet us at the designated spot, then lead us down a side street to a corner seafood taco stand that has been in business for over forty years.  We belly up to the outdoor bar, gaze at the selection of fresh crab, shrimp, lobster, fish, and octopus through the protective clean glass that separated us from the cooks.  We choose either the blue crab tostada or a deep fried mixed seafood quesadilla. Luckily, Debbie and I can share so we choose one of each, drizzled with lots fresh lime and Valentina sauce.  YUMMY and AMAZING after first bites.

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After a block or two, we turn the corner near the San Juan artisans market and come upon a stall that is operated by a third generation cook.  Right on this corner, whole turkeys are cut up on the seat of a plastic chair, then deep-fried in a giant cauldron filled with oil until done.  The meat is then sliced, layered on a toasted roll (torta), slathered with homemade chipotle chili salsa (another OOOH, AAAAH here), and topped with avocado.  We are invited to add a papalo leaf to the ingredients before closing up the sandwich to eat.  This is a minty herb with a sharp, flavorful taste unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.  We each get a half-sandwich to sample.  What I notice while I inhale this treat is how the plastic plates are wiped with a cloth only used for this purpose.  The plate is covered with a clean piece of paper before the sandwich finds its resting place.  I have no concerns about sanitation here.

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It’s the middle of July and the rainy season in Mexico.  As we enter San Juan market, boxes are filled with just-delivered mushrooms, varieties of which I have not seen before.  This market offers a gourmet food experience and many top chefs shop here for exotic meats (like ostrich, lion, and kangaroo), fruit and vegetables.  We sample fresh rambutan, chico zapote, mango, jackfruit, figs, nectarines.  The mamey tastes like a creamy sweet potato and I love it.  Eat it solo for dessert or try it as an ice cream.

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Coffee, anyone?  The barista grinds beans from Veracruz and brews me a cup of Americano from the espresso machine.  MMMMM, good.

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Next, is a tasting of fruit jams and jellies, tapenades, and honey.  I walk away with a jar of jalapeno jelly and rose petal jam.  Next door is the cheese purveyor who puts out a sampling plate of world-class varieties like smoked gouda, pistachio infused manchego cheese, brie, and a mozzarella, all made in Mexico.  He offers us cups of red wine to sip along with the tasting.  Baguettes of fresh, crusty French bread hang from the overhead rack above his stall, ready to take home.

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By now, I am full, but we press on.  Our guide Natalia explains the history of the market dating from pre-Hispanic Aztec times.  Mexico, she says, gave the world three gifts:  chocolate, chiles, and vanilla.  At the next intersection is the chile vendor where some of us buy mole rojo and vanilla beans at 20 pesos each (that’s about $1.50).  Natalia recommends we put a vanilla bean in the sugar jar for a great taste.

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At the Oaxaca specialty food stand, we pop chapulines (grasshoppers) into our mouths.  No one is reticent.  The big ones are the females.  The little ones are males.  They are roasted with salt and chiles, crunchy and tasty.  I say no to another taste of Oaxaca quesillo.  No more space in my stomach.  Debbie buys a bag of peanuts roasted with chile, salt and lime juice.  I watch her pop a few!

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We move out onto the street in the direction of the common people’s market Arcos de Belen.  On the way, we stop at a molina to see how the corn is ground. Next door is the tortilleria where the masa dough is formed and cooked by machine. (In Teotitlan del Valle, we can still get handmade tortillas!)  Natalia gives us a history of corn as part of the cultural identity of Mexico, where it was first hybridized eight thousand years ago in the Oaxaca valley close to where I live.

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After we tour the market food courts, we all pass on a taste at the fresh juice bar (estoy lleno–I am full) and move on to the corner where a woman sits making blue corn tlacoyos.

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The finish is at the pulque bar, where the double swinging doors look like a saloon entrance.  The décor is decidedly neo-Aztec with bright figures painted on walls and ceilings.  We cozy up to a side bar where the owner brings us a sampler tray of flavored pulques – pineapple, celery, coconut, oatmeal, guayaba plus au natural (a viscous, sour taste).  The sweetness helps mask the milkiness. Natalia tells us the Aztec history of the drink and explains that it is fermented, not distilled, from the agave plant and must be served fresh.  It is cheap, gives a nice buzz, and is favored by university students who represent most of the clientele this day.  I take a liking to the celery and pineapple.

University students at the pulqueria

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We say our goodbyes at the next street corner.  What a great adventure, very fun, educational, and gastronomically delightful. I have a map but I’m not going to share it with you!

I recommend you sign up for Eat Mexico Culinary Tours and discover this great food experience for yourself!

P.S. The cost of $85 per person includes guide services, map, a bottle of water, and all food and drink along the way.  We sign up in advance and pay online.  Very easy.  Eat Mexico sends lots of email communication to tell us where to meet, what to wear that would be comfortable, and a little bit about our guide so we recognize her.  Be sure to check out Lesley Tellez’ The Mija Chronicles blog, too.

Guest Blog: Tlacolula Market Chickens by Janet Andrews

Tlacolula Market Chickens by Janet Andrews*

Large orange feet and toe nails sticking straight up in the air –  rows of them –  pull me away from the other sights, sounds, and smells of the Tlacolula Market.  The four toes of each foot are spread wide just like Beth instructed us to do with our toes in yoga this morning.  Wouldn’t you know it, chickens just naturally spread their toes for stability and connectivity to the earth while I, at age 74, am just learning how important it is to be connected to the ground I walk on.

But why are the chicken’s feet so orange, I wonder? My guess is they are fed yellow corn, but it simply may be that the chickens produced for the United States market have their feet removed before I ever see them.  My culture has a nasty habit of trying to sanitize and separate people from the frequently hard-to-take realities of life.  Later, I learned that actually Oaxacans feed chickens a concentrated Marigold flower powder to enhance the color of their skin and egg yolks.

Looking down from the chicken’s feet I see they are lying on their backs on a table with their feet facing the aisle. So I am now staring into an empty body cavity that is clean of entrails.  Again our yoga practice comes flying into my mind  –  “let go of your vagina as though it would fall from you to the ground.”   Well, the chickens would get a high score for accomplishing that, although I doubt it was for the same purpose we have in yoga.

These Tlacolula chickens, like the ones I encounter at home, have their feathers cleanly plucked, leaving their skin speckled in shades of yellow, tan, and red. Peering into the body cavity I see red muscle, yellow fat, and white fascia, cartilage and bone.  All combined, these images allow me to believe my Corpse Pose, Savasana, is a lot more relaxing than the chicken’s.

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Market Chickens, photo by Janet Andrews

*Janet Andrews is from Tucson, Arizona, and participated in our 2013 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat.  She came with the intention of writing more about her family history, which she did.  She also gave us this witty take on her experience at the Tlacolula Market.